The Federal Trade Commission finalized a consent order with a subsidiary of Nestle over charges that the company made deceptive health benefit claims about its children’s drink BOOST Kid Essentials.

Nestle HealthCare Nutrition’s BOOST Kid Essentials, a nutritionally complete drink intended for children ages one to 13, made claims about the benefits of the drink’s probiotics, including that it could prevent upper respiratory tract infections in children, protect against colds and flu by strengthening the immune system, and reduce absences from daycare or school due to illness, according to the FTC complaint.

The FTC said that the claims appeared on product packaging, the company’s Web site, magazine ads, and television commercials from the fall of 2008 to the fall of 2009. “‪Nestle’s claims that its probiotic product would prevent kids from getting sick or missing school just didn’t stand up to scrutiny,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Parents want to do right by their kids, and the FTC is helping them by monitoring ads and stopping those that are deceptive.”

Under the consent order, Nestle agreed to stop making claims that BOOST will reduce the risk of colds, flu, and other upper respiratory tract infections unless the claim is approved by the Food and Drug Administration; stop asserting that BOOST will reduce children’s sick-day absences and the duration of acute diarrhea in children up to age 13 unless the claims are true and backed by at least two well-designed human clinical studies; and discontinue any claims about the health benefits, performance, or efficacy of any probiotic or nutritionally complete drinks unless the claims are true and backed by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

The consent order was tweaked slightly after a public comment period; the definition of an “essentially equivalent product” used in clinical studies was broadened, the FTC said, similar to the definition used in the recent settlement with Dannon, another case involving claims about probiotics.

To read the complaint in In the Matter of Nestle HealthCare Nutrition, click here.

To read the decision and order, click here.

Why it matters: While the settlement with Dannon was announced last month, the FTC noted that the Nestle action was its first against a company making claims about a probiotic product. Similar to the terms of that settlement, the FTC took the extra step of requiring FDA pre-approval for future claims by Nestle that BOOST can reduce the risk of colds, flu, and other respiratory tract infections. “[T]his will facilitate Nestle’s compliance with the settlement order and will make the order easier to enforce,” the FTC said.